Caldecott Tunnel east bound bore reopened after morning fire

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The Caldecott Tunnel's eastbound bore is now reopen after a fire that caused a lot of headaches for drivers during the morning commute.

It was a frightening moment for eastbound commuters Monday morning caught behind a car fully engulfed in flames inside the Caldecott Tunnel. The tunnel filled with smoke forcing to drivers abandoned their vehicles and rush out.

A car that crashed and burned was heading eastbound, the opposite of the morning commute.

People outside the Caldecott Tunnel could see the smoke billowing out.

PHOTOS: Car fire in Caldecott Tunnel's eastbound bore

Some drivers were forced to abandon their cars to escape the fire.

"Everybody was like get out! So were right with them. Everybody was running out of their cars. It was serious," explained Gabriella Rivera.

As the smoke thickened inside the tunnel, people said it was tough to breathe.

"Imagine having a barbecue inside and being stuck inside. It was like that but ten times worse," said Micah Jordano, an Oakland resident.

The driver of a Ford Taurus hit a Saturn and burst into flames.

The driver of the Saturn, Binod Bastol, saw the fire and had to think fast.

"I panicked. I couldn't get out of the car. The doors were all locked. I had to crawl in back and kick this
door out to get out of the car," said Bastol.

No one was hurt, but longtime Bay Area residents couldn't help but think about the deadly accident that happened in the Caldecott Tunnel in 1982. Seven people were killed in that accident.

"It brought flashbacks of the tanker blowing up in the tunnel years ago. I was a kid, but it kind of had that feel to it. We all ran out pretty fast. We were pretty scared," said Edgar Roach, a San Leandro resident.

The crash was first reported at 6:43 a.m. Fire crews responded and extinguished the car fire shortly after 7:30 a.m., according to the CHP.

It was exactly the kind of scenario Caltrans, the highway patrol and local fire agencies practiced back in February.

People return to their cars after being evacuated due to a car fire in the eastbound bore on Monday, March 16, 2015. (KGO)

PHOTO: People return to their cars after being evacuated.
"Everything worked as we had already planned and as we had executed in an emergency scenario last month," said Roquel Johnson with Caltrans.

Despite the concerns about heavy smoke, Caltrans says the exhaust system inside the 78-year-old bore number one worked as well as could be expected.

Unlike the new fourth bore, there are no giant jet fans and it this point there are no plans to install them in the three older bores.

Bay City News contributed to this story.
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